Construction Photos

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A portion of the wall layout is shown under construction. This section includes a turnout. A full-size drawing, made using a Visio stencil I created, serves as a pattern. The strips of wood which will form the stringers are shown ready for use. Each stringer is a laminate made of four strips of 1/8" x 1/2" hemlock. They are sawn from 1/2" x 6" boards.

Using the pattern, quarter-inch holes are drilled into the plywood work surface. Dowels are inserted in the holes to form a jig which holds the strips in the proper curved position for gluing. Nails are placed on the plywood to prevent any glue squeezed out of the laminate from adhering to the plywood.

Stringers are clamped every two inches or so with one-inch spring clamps until the glue is thoroughly cured. I wait a minimum of eight hours before removing the stringers from the jig. Next, excess glue is removed from the stringers using a random-orbit sander.

A laminated curved stringer and 1/2" x 1/2" straight pieces are awaiting assembly. Again using the pattern, the curved stringer is carefully cut to mate properly with a straight piece.

This is a close-up view of where the curved stringer and the straight piece are to be joined.

Dowels are used to provide additional strength at the joint. Holes are drilled through both pieces and then glue-covered dowels are inserted at the same time that glue is applied to both parts. Several clamps are then applied. After glue has cured, excess glue is removed and the dowels are cut off and sanded flush with the stringers.

A module nears completion. This section is 78 inches long.

This photo shows two stringers which will be used to build a quarter-circle of track. The stringers are a few inches longer than necessary, and will be later cut off to the exact length needed.

1/2" x 1/2" x 7" tie supports are nailed to the stringers with 7/8" wire brads. Tie supports located at ceiling or wall hangers are notched to accept 1/4" x 1/2" x 2" wood clamps which attach the module to the hangers. The notch is wider than the clamp to allow for adjustment during installation. Instead of the oak stain used for the stringers, the ties are stained dark mahogany in an attempt to provide the appearance of creosoted ties.

The track has been attached to the module for a final fit. Next, the ends of the stringers are sawn-off to be flush with the track ends.

Similar construction techniques are used to build straight sections such as this dual-track module.

For the overhead layout, several types of ceiling hangers were needed to accomodate different right-of-way combinations. Some were designed to utilize the sloped ceilings on three sides of the room. Ceiling hangers are made of hemlock, while oak was used to make wall hangers (not shown). No nails or screws are used, however the dowel and glue construction turns out to be quite strong. To test their strength, two hangers were built and destroyed - with great difficulty - after the glue had thoroughly cured.

The northeast corner of the room was chosen for the first overhead module. After months of planning, the first hole was finally drilled in the ceiling.

The first hanger was fastened to the ceiling using plastic drywall anchors. The height of the layout was determined by the door shown here. The design calls for 1/8" clearance between the bottom of the hanger and the top of the door.

As the installation proceeded around the room, I took an opportunity to climb up the ladder to have a face-to-face look at things to come. This is the dual-track section shown being built a few photos earlier.

The hangers for the eye-level layout are being installed. Instead of the 1/2" hemlock used for the ceiling hangers, these hangers are made of 3/4" oak. I wanted them to be stronger, as I knew I would be banging my head on them frequently!

A corner module for the wall layout is in being fitted in place. I always built and installed the corner modules first, followed by the straight sections in between them. This module has one long (16 inch) support in the center. Other similar corner modules are supported by two shorter supports, equally spaced, which provides a sturdier and better looking solution. However, some audio equipment will go below in this corner, and the single support provides more space.

The first dozen wires for the Wall Layout are being installed. A wiring nightmare! In all, forty-four wires leave the wall layout's control panel. All of them now reside in the wooden conduit that can be seen just below the trackwork. For comparison, there are just four wires leading to the digitally controlled Overhead Layout.

Construction of the wall layout was in three phases, built years apart. In 2000, a single track ran along the wall. The second phase added two more tracks, and in 2007 the last phase added a fourth track. In this photo I am adding tracks for the second phase, which necessitated revision to the first track in order to insert a turnout. Each time the wall layout was expanded, the support structure had to be completely rebuilt.

In this photo, the opening into the closet has been expanded so that a second track could enter the closet. By the time the wall layout was completed in 2007, the opening was further expanded so that three tracks could enter the closet. The tunnel portals were rebuilt during each phase of the construction.

The scratch-built loco shed with the roof removed. The on/off switch for the "men working" sound is on the far wall. Just below it is the sound electronics and the speaker. A small regulated DC power supply for the welder's electronics is in front of the speaker. Wires lead from the power supply to the electronics for the welder's torch, located on the side wall. The hollow wood overhead structure contains the lamps that provide the interior lighting. The shed lifts off if maintenance is needed. It is supplied with 18 VAC for the lamps, sound module and DC power supply.